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The Chairman, Railway Board & Ors v. Mrs. Chandrima Das & Ors


Author: Ankita Kar, 4th year student at SOA National Institute of Law, Bhubaneswar, Odisha.

Citation:  C.A. No. 639 of 2000

Date of Decision: 28.01.2000

Bench: R.P. Sethi, S. Saghir Ahmad

Original Copy:  View

Issues in Question:

  • Whether the respondents have locus standi?
  • Whether a victim from a foreign nationality can seek relief under Public Statue since there is no legal provision accessible to foreign nationality under Indian Constitution?
  • Whether the Central Govt. can be held vicariously liable for the offence committed by the railway employees and will be accountable to pay a sum of Rs. 10 lacs as awarded by the High Court?

Background of the case:

  • Ms. Hanufa Khatun was the Union Board’s elected representative. On Feb. 26, 1998, around 02:00 p.m. she arrived at the Howrah Railway station to use the service of Jodhpur Express for some official duties. She had a waitlisted ticket, for which she talked to a T.T.E. at the station for the confirmation of her ticket. The T.T.E. then, asked her to wait a bit in the Ladies Waiting room, thus she went there and rested for a while.
  • On the same day, around 05:00 p.mAshoke Singh and Siyaram Singh, the railway employees, spoke to her, took her ticket and returned it back to her after confirming the ticket of Jodhpur Express. Again, around 08:00 p.mSiyaram Singh approached her with a boy named Kashi and asked her to go with him to a restaurant if she wanted to eat something at night. Then, she went with Kashi to grab a meal. Immediately after eating the meal, she vomited and came back to the ladies waiting room. Again, around 09:00 pm. Ashoke Singh and Rafi Ahmed (a railway employee) approached her and asked her to give company to him. At first, she was in doubt, regarding their identities, later confirmed by the lady attendant, as the employees of the Howrah Railway Station. Then, she accompanied them to Yatree Niwas. Sitaram Singh (a railway employee) also accompanied them on the way to Yatree Niwas. Then, she was taken to a room that was booked in the name of Ashoke Singh.
  • Two employees, later recognized as Lalan Singh and Awadesh Singh, were waiting for her inside the room. Then, Awadesh Singh locked the room from outside and guarded the room. The rest four employees i.e. Ashoke Singh, Sitaram Singh, Lalan Singh and Rafi Ahmed forced her to consume alcohol. Then, they oppressively violated her,and she went into trauma.  
  • After that, she managed to escape from there, and went back to the railway station. There, she met Siyaram Singh and Ashoke Singh, where Siyaram pretended to be her savior by abusing and slapping Ashoke Singh. Then, he persuaded her to accompany him to his apartment to stay the night along with her wife and children and thereby, ensuring her safety.
  • Thereafter, Siyaram Singh partnered with his friend named Ram Shamiram Sharma and took her to the rented flat of Ram Shamiram Sharma. After reaching the flat, Siyaram Singh raped Hanufa Khatun. When she protested and countered aggressively, both of them blocked her mouth and nose with the intention of killing her, which resulted in her continuous bleeding.
  • Later, she was rescued by the Jorabagan Police. Then, in accordance with the above-mentioned facts, the High Court awarded compensations to her, since the rape was committed by the railway employees at the railway building belonging to the rail department.

Judgment:

  • The case of “A Regd. Society vs. UOI & Ors” and ‘LIC of India vs. Escort Limited”, was taken into consideration by a Three-Judge Bench to establish a differentiation between the Public and Private Law. In public law, the dispute took place between the citizen or a group of citizens against the State or the Public Bodies. It is done to avert the State or the Public Bodies from acting irrationally and to keep up the rule of law.
  • The court said that the public law has been expanded in the areas of law of contract and law of tort. Since, the line limiting the boundary of public law and private law is dull-witted; the public law will be applicable to the public officials involved in the matter relating to the infringement of fundamental rights or the implementation of the public duties.
  • It is observed that the practicing attorneys have a crucial interest in the independent judiciary. They are also interested in challenging the constitutionality and validity of law. The charitable citizens having utmost faith in rule of law are providing social services by adopting causes of public nature. Therefore, they cannot be ignored or neglected on the ground of technical standard of rule of locus standi or lack of personal loss or injury.
  • On the basis of domestic jurisprudence, the court held that Article 20, 21 and 22 falling under part III of the Indian Constitution not only apply to the citizens but also apply to the non-citizens. On the basis of this, the Court held that, all the non-citizens are entitled to the right of protection of their lives and accordingly it is the duty of the State to protect it.
  • The bench observed that even though Mrs. Hanufa Khatun was from a different nationality, she was not entitled to go through a treatment with no dignity, nor she was entitled to be treated with physical violence by the Govt. employees and the right accessible under Article 21 was also infringed.

Critical analysis:

  • The appeal was dismissed stating that the amount of Rs.10 lacs as compensation shall be made in India to the High Commissioner for Bangladesh for paying the victim i.e. Mrs. Hanufa Khatun. The payment shall be made within three months from the date of order.
  • The case answered many questions and repeated some accepted notions like vicarious liability and the responsibility of the state regarding it. Even it pulled out a line between charitable and domestic jurisprudence and its relevance in the territory of India. The clarification between private and public law was thoroughly outlined.

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